Chuck Berry died on March 18. Not the originator of rock ‘n roll, and perhaps not The King of Rock ‘n Roll, outright, but rock royalty, beyond a doubt: creator of some of the music’s most indelible lyrics, tunes and motifs.
Like anyone who’s picked up a guitar in the rock era, I’ve played and sung my share of Chuck Berry numbers, whether sitting in my bedroom with an acoustic guitar or blasting away with rag-tag trios and quartets in kitchens, living rooms and garages.
A highlight was my annual participation in an ensemble of musicians from around the world — typically more than a dozen countries: the rollicking, massive Global Jam. We played music in a wide variety of genres, but as any performance reached the finale, we dug deep to get a crowd of hundreds of people — representing a couple score of nations — out on the floor, dancing in front of us.
(The 13 musicians in that single photo hail from 9 different countries.)
Music was the language we all had in common. What music did we play to bring the evening to a crescendo and sum up the joy of being together, celebrating the incandescent joy of life?
His mother told him, “Someday you will be a man,
And you will be the leader of a big ol’ band.
Many people comin’ from miles around
To hear you play your music when the sun goes down.
Maybe someday your name will be in lights
Sayin’ ‘Johnny B. Goode tonight’!”
Go, go — Go, Johnny, go!
So long, Chuck. Thank you.
© Brad Nixon 2017. “Johnny B. Goode” © Chuck Berry
I wrote about the Global Jam several times. Click here to read the introduction to an impressive set of musicians.